Penguins alums recall the stress of lockout in 1994-95
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It's not hard to figure out the league's worst-case scenario, either: That there won't be a new CBA for many months, and the 2012-13 season simply will not happen. Just like the '04-05 season didn't because of a protracted labor dispute.
But there is precedent for another possibility: A lockout that will drag long enough to shorten the season, but not wipe it out.
That happened nearly two decades ago, when the season that was supposed to get under way in October 1994 didn't begin until January 1995. And had to be condensed from 84 to 48 games.
It's far too early to predict accurately the likelihood of an abbreviated -- or nonexistent -- season in 2012-13, although the prospects could come a bit more into focus today.
The NHL Players' Association plans to meet with league officials this afternoon in New York to offer its response to a proposal the NHL put forth during a negotiating session Tuesday in New York.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters that the offer is a counter-proposal to one submitted by the NHLPA last week, and that it features changes that are "significant" and include "meaningful movement" from the league's previous plan.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the plan put forth by the league is "different in some respects" from what it had offered previously, but did not elaborate.
He added that it's a proposal "we intend to respond to," and that NHLPA officials planned to review the offer Tuesday night and this morning.
Although neither side divulged any particulars of the league's latest plan, Bettman did make a point of saying that revenue sharing -- an issue that has generated a lot of outside attention during the negotiations -- "will not make or break this deal," and that the parties are not that far from an agreement on it.
The Penguins' perspective on the negotiations isn't known and likely won't be for a while. Team officials who publicly discuss the labor situation face the threat of a heavy fine by the league, so it was no surprise when co-owner Mario Lemieux declined to address the subject before the annual alumni golf tournament Tuesday.
Although Lemieux sat out the 1994-95 season because of health issues, many former teammates were in the league. And what they went through when a lockout pushed back the start of the season three months was unlike anything they'd experienced.
"Once you get into missing 10, 20, 30 games, it's tough to stay mentally ready because you don't know what's going to happen," left winger Kevin Stevens said.
"You miss the first 10 games and you can skate with your buddies and have some fun, but it gets old."
That seemed to be a pretty popular sentiment, but there was nothing resembling a consensus on whether any particular club, or type of club, would have an edge if the 2012-13 season were shortened by a lockout.
"The Penguins have a lot of good experience," center Dave Hannan said. "They've won the Cup before, have a lot of guys who have been through that."
Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Murphy disagreed, saying that "they talk about older teams benefiting, but I don't know. I don't buy into that at all."
Of course, the point will be moot if a new CBA is forged before mid-September.
Or if the negotiations implode and the NHL goes into mothballs until 2013-14. Or later.
With so much money in play, anything is possible.
"It's such a business now," Stevens said. "It's become that. And these are the things that happen when it becomes such a business. Such a money-maker for both sides."
The session this afternoon should provide the next indication -- perhaps a critical one -- of whether the players and owners will be able to settle on a formula for sharing the revenues the game is generating.
"Everybody's sort of locking horns now," Hannan said. "And the deadline is looming."
NOTE -- The golf tournament served as a 20-year reunion for the 1992 Stanley Cup team, and there was a strong turnout of players on that club. There were some no-shows, as well. The most prominent were Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Rick Tocchet, Tom Barrasso and Ulf Samuelsson.
First Published August 29, 2012 12:00 am